PIONEER: Café Real was the first business venture of the Real Group run by the Shirodkar brothers
BY RAJAN NARAYAN
AND a few stray thoughts for yet another Saturday. For a Saturday following the week when Goa’s popular Governor Satya Pal Malik was abruptly transferred to Meghalaya. For a Saturday following the week when Indians seem to do much better for themselves abroad than in their own country. For a Saturday following the week when new entrepreneurs started replacing old family businesses with technology being the key factor in breaking class in caste barriers. For a Saturday following the week when Shailesh Shetty, co-host of Sunburn, was arrested at the Arpora rave party in coastal Goa.
AND a few stray thoughts on the sad demise of my friend Anand Madgaonkar who symbolized the spirit of Goenkarpon. Anand Madgaonkar’s love for Goa was infinite. Anand was involved in every cause that he thought would damage his beloved green great outdoors of Goa. Whatever the movement initiated to protect Goa’s environment Anand was always an integral part of it and always trusted. He was secretary of Goa Bachao Abhiyan which led to the scrapping of the notorious Regional Plan 2011 which sought to sell off Goa to the building lobby.
Anand was deeply involved in the movement against the conspiracy to hand over large plots of land to builders under the pretence of creating a special export promotion zone. Anand, who was a marine ship salvager by profession, fought for over a decade to help the abandoned `River Princess’ be removed from Candolim beach, near Taj Aguada seafront. The two Madgaonkar brothers were involved in salvaging many a ship sunk to the bottom of the sea or stranded along some coastline. The best part of Anand was also that he was a compulsive good Samaritan, could not say no to any good cause.
He supported many social causes and activists fighting to save Goa’s environment, before the Pune Branch of the National Green Tribunal. I have known Anand from the time I joined the Herald, sometimes we used to adjourn to Clube Vasco da Gama nearby for a drink before going to our respective homes. Anand like all true Goans liked to live life to the full. He enjoyed going out with his wife Celsa who is also an outdoors sports person like him. Both Anand and his brother Anil were State badminton champions, their father was first national badminton champion.
I will forever be grateful to Anand Madgoankar for agreeing to be secretary of my 60th birth anniversary function organised by a group of friends including Anil Counte as president and Arvind Bhatikar as treasurer. Ever considerate Anand loved to celebrate his birthday on Dec 23 because he was insistent on accompanying Celsa for midnight mass on December 24.
A brave and cheerful Anand took pancreatic cancer in his stride, much like former Goa Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar. But Anand never allowed his ailing body to make him bitter or negative. Mornings or evening he sent Tara cheerful messages on her phone pointing out that there are so many other things in life to take joy in. Anand never sought sympathy even in his most painful moments and instead cheered up others who were depressed. I say in the passing on of Anand Madgaonkar Goa has lost a major icon figure and will be long missed to stay forever in the memory of many who knew or had interacted with him.
AND a few stray thoughts on the sudden transfer of the Governor Satya Pal Malik. It was not totally unexpected as there have been sharp differences between the Malik and Chief Minister Pramod Sawant. It still comes as a surprise as it was widely believed that Centre would back a super competent governor against a mediocre chief minister. It is obvious that Pramod Sawant has greater clout with the RSS at least if not Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Since Home Minister Amit Shah who is in charge of the posting of governors is still recovering from Covid-19 at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences in New Delhi. It is obvious that it is the RSS which has backed the chief minister.
Which is surprising as Pramod Sawant is a relative new comer to the ranks of the RSS, but apparently he has the support of the state RSS General Secretary Satish Dhond. The first clash between the governor and chief minister occurred after a meeting on the management of Covid-19 by the CM. The governor is reported to have pulled up Pramod Sawant for mismanaging the situation which led Goa from being a Green Zone state to a Red Zone state. Indeed, till June there were no cases of Covid-19. Now the tally has already crossed the 1,000 mark and what is disturbing is that the mortality rate is steadily rising.
Chief Minister Pramod Sawant told the media after the meeting with the governor that Malik had accused the media of distorting facts relating to the management of Covid-19. A furious governor publically rebutted the chief minister and asserted that he never blamed the media. On the contrary the governor reiterated that in his 50 years of public life he has always considered the media the backbone of democracy. To add salt to injury he added that it was from the media that he had learnt about the mismanagement of Covid-19.
There were sharp differences on other issues also where the governor was equally outspoken. The governor dismissed the CM’s proposal of building a new Raj Bhavan, pointing out that it would be the huge waste of money. In his letter to the Centre the governor had called the proposal to build a new Raj Bhavan “irrational and imprudent to even think about building a new one.” The governor also wrote to Home Minister Amit Shah on the delay in resumption of mining which is causing huge losses to the State. The governor intervened when Pramod Sawant tried to dilute Goa’s stand on the diversion of the Mhadei waters to Karnataka. There has been uproar not only among political parties but even in social media against the transfer of the governor.
Chief Minister Pramod Sawant is being blamed for the sudden transfer of the popular governor with the Congress party asking for a cancellation of the transfer of Satya Pal Malik to Meghalaya. Perhaps the Centre does not want to set a precedent of its governors over-ruling the decisions of it chief ministers and publically censuring them.
GOANS DO BETTER OUTSIDE
AND a few stray thoughts on the increasing perception that Indians including Goans do much better outside the country than in India. The heads of some of the biggest technology companies in the US are of Indian origin. Anand Maheshwari recently took over as the CEO of Microsoft. It is not only technology companies which are headed by Indian immigrant citizens. Till recently the chairperson of Pepsi, considered among the biggest companies in the world, was Indra Nooyi of Chennai origin. Indeed, corporate America has been strongly objecting to a reduction of H1B1 visas to people of Indian origin. Donald Trump has not only tried to reduce the quota or work permits to Indians but has even attempted to bar the spouse of the senior Indian executives from taking up jobs appropriate to their qualification.
But it is not just the conquest of corporate America that has surprised a lot of Indians. People of Indian origin have got themselves elected to the US Senate and the House of Representative. Correspondently, a number of Indians including three Goans are members of the British Parliament. Many senior positions in the government both in the UK and the US are held by people of Indian origin. This includes membership of the US Supreme Court and leadership to several state departments.
Indians have broken two barriers in their battle to reach the top in the United States. They have broken not only the ethnic barriers but also the gender barriers. The Democratic candidate for the American president’s post in the elections to be held in November is again a woman of Tamil origins, Kamala Harris. Kamala who grow up in Tamil Nadu is married to a Jamaican man and has a good chance of becoming the vice-president of the US of A. Given the unpopularity of Donald Trump the probability of his rival Joseph R Biden getting the Democratic nomination and going on to gaining the presidency is very high. By choosing Kamala Haris as his running mate, he has assured himself not only the Indian immigrant vote but also that of a large number of Jamaicans who have acquired US citizenship.
Right from the time Barack Obama captured the presidency and was even elected for a second term, blacks as also non-Caucasian whites as they are called have been playing a major role in the US elections. Many of the online companies ranging from fashion aggregators like Mahendra to food supply companies like Swiggy’s have been started by young Indian entrepreneurs. It is not second generation industrialist who dominate the economy but new young technocrats who have taken maximum advantage of the growth of venture capital. Unlike in the past when entrepreneurs were entirely depended on banks and financial institutions for funds now a number of venture capital companies have been set up which finance talent.
There are many examples of graduates of the IITs and the Management Institutes setting up new companies financed by venture capital and they have been growing more rapidly than the old family run enterprises. Beginning with Dhirubai Ambani to the new IT giants like not only Infosys but Wipro and HCL, they are all first generation enterprises which have overtaken the old tortoises. Indian entrepreneurs have done very well themselves not only in India but are responsible for over 50% of the new companies in Silicon Valley, the IT hub in United States.
MIGRATING FULL SWING
AND a few stray thought on Goan industrialists increasingly migrating out of the State. The first big shock came when the Dempo’s Group sold all its interest in mining to Vedanta, an Indian multinational based in London. Subsequently, the Salgaocar brothers broke up with Dattaraj Salgaocar selling his stake in mining to his brother. Nana Bandekar has chosen to invest in a huge pharma company in Zambia. The Dempos on their part have set up many shipyards in Gujarat. Even the pharma companies which dominate the Verna Industrial Estate are expanding outside the State. Even home grown pharma companies like the CMM group have chosen to expand or set up new units outside the State.
The old Goan families which used to dominate the mining industry do not see any future in investing in Goa. In the hospitality industry only the property belongs to Goans with the management leased out to outsiders. The Fomento group for instance has leased out its Cidade da Goa and the new 400-room hotel on the cliff sides of Dona Paula to the Taj group for management. The property of Taj Vivanta Panaji, the ITC’s Fortune and Meridian belong to Goans although the management is outsourced.
It would appear that Goans do not have much confidence in their managerial skills. Even in construction many of leading Goan builders have gone into partnership with builders in Mumbai and elsewhere. The latest example is the partnership between the Mathai group and the Prestige group which is better known for its pressure cookers. I was shocked to learn that even the poder who delivers our morning bread of pao is a migrant now. The bread may be baked by Goan bakers but the distribution of the bread loaves is done by migrants on bicycles or motor bikes. Which is one of the reasons why the Food & Drug Administration has decided to license the bicycles in which the poder boys deliver their local bread.
This is part of the historical pattern in Goa. It may be Goans who own the trucks that transport the iron and coal. It may be Goans who own thousands of taxis which charge extortionate fares. But in both the case of trucks and taxis the drivers are migrants settled in Goa. While Goan industrialists with rare exception seem to prefer to invest and expand outside Goa!
BEGINNING OF REAL GROUP!
Among the exceptions is the Real Group of companies which completes its 74th anniversary this month. The group was started by Late Shri Gajanan Shirodkar and the maiden venture was Café Real. For sentimental reasons the Real group continue to nurse Café Real which is the favourite of lawyers, politicians and general public. I have frequented Real ever since I came to Goa in 1983 because the snacks are always fresh and the standard of hygiene even before Covid-19 was very high. Real then expanded into the Liquor business and its wines were famous. I recall that on a visit to Goa in the late 70s a group of us bought crates of their sparkling wine to take back. Real also makes food drinks and soft drink. I still have very fond memories of the founder of the group Late Shri Gajanan Shirodkar.
RAVE PARTIES TOO
AND a last stray thought on the arrest of Shailesh Shetty who had partnered Percept in organising the Sunburn music event last year. Apparently, Shailesh Shetty does not limit himself to electronic dance music parties only. It has now been discovered that he is also involved in organising rave parties which take place mostly in Morjim, Vagator, Anjuna beaches along Goa’s northern coastal beach belt. Even Covid-19 apparently did not dampen the spirit of the bold and beautiful and rich and powerful for in the current month alone there have been at least two rave parties in private villas and farm houses. The rave parties included a farewell party organised by a Russian women who spends a large part of the year in Goa running restaurants and small interesting businesses.